David Oniya, a Nigerian soccer player for the Malaysian club T-Team, died yesterday after suffering a heart attack on the pitch in a match against Kelantan FA. The 30-year-old Oniya had been playing for just three minutes when the heart attack struck and he collapsed, before being taken to hospital where he died 30 minutes later, The Independent reports.
The Guardian reports that this season had been the player’s first since joining T-Team after time in central Asia, where he played spells at the Uzbek clubs FK Dinamo Samarqand and Neftchi FK, amongst others. It is unknown what caused the heart attack of this apparently healthy young player. Speaking to Malaysian tabloid The Star, Amiridzwan Taj Tajuddin, a member of Kelantan’s squad, said that the incident happened very quickly.
“The game had just started for about two or three minutes. Suddenly, he collapsed.”
Syahrizan Mohd Zain, T-Team’s CEO, also said that the match hadn’t been particularly physically stressful, The Independent reported.
“There was no hard running and it was a slow tempo match.”
Following Oniya’s death, Syahrizan also harshly criticized the ambulance driver who had attended to Oniya. Speaking to The New Straits Times, he claimed that the driver had not been alert enough, and that he should have responded quicker.
“He suffered a heart attack but it could have been a different story had the ambulance driver been alert. The driver was at the stands watching the game when Oniya suddenly collapsed and our defender was deprived of oxygen for several minutes.”
Twitter users around the world have responded to Oniya’s death by posting tributes and messages of condolences for his family.
Nigeria player passed on a soccer field. Passed on the beautiful pitch were life is beautiful. Rest in peace #DavidOniya 🙏🏼
— kid. (@ryyeryye_15) June 13, 2015
My condolences to the family of #DavidOniya
— Mike Devlin (@BlueWolf1894) June 13, 2015
— Gabrael [JLXXIII] (@elleyone) June 13, 2015
David Oniya’s tragic death isn’t the first time a soccer player has collapsed on the pitch before dying. In 2007, Antonio Puerta, a player for Spanish club Sevilla collapsed on the pitch during a game against AEK Athens, and died three days later, with the underlying cause being multiple cardiac arrests due to a heart condition.
Fabrice Muamba, who had played for English soccer club Bolton Wanderers, suffered a heart attack during a game against Tottenham Hotspur. Unlike Oniya and Puerta, Muamba survived, but the heart attack ended his career, with Muamba voluntarily giving up the game on advice of medical staff.
[Image of T-Team stadium via Wikipedia.]